Last month, my husband needed emergency care unrelated to COVID-19. His experience made us acutely aware of the emotional impact caused by hospital visitor restrictions for families and health care workers alike.
I acknowledge the seriousness of COVID-19 and the need to protect health care workers, patients and the public. I’m confident the current policies were made with the best judgment to promote safety in hospitals. However, these policies should be reexamined and adjusted to allow every patient the right to a support person to accompany them in the hospital.
The CDC has already outlined guidelines for hospitals in managing visitor access within their facilities. These guidelines include: limiting visitors to those essential to the well-being of the patient (such as care partners), limiting points of access to the facility, screening all visitors for symptoms of COVID-19, denying access to the facility to visitors who present with a fever, requiring all visitors to wear face masks, restricting visitors to the patient room and taking special measures to control visits to patients with COVID-19. These guidelines do not call for the complete restriction of all visitors in the hospital setting. Actually, they highlight the essential role care partners play in supporting a patient’s emotional and physical well-being.
Care partner presence promotes healing and lessens the burdens of health care workers. Hospital administrators should consider changing visiting policies to reflect CDC guidelines, improve recovery and healing and lessen demands on their staff.